I am beyond excited to introduce you to Sonderlier (Saun-der-lee-ay)! More than a women’s clothing brand, Sonderlier is about silencing that voice of doubt that tells you not to rock the boat, to stay in your lane, to avoid risks, to abandon dreams. Sonderlier is about wrapping you in your favorite blanket – if that blanket also looked amazing and allowed you to strut your stuff anywhere.
I understand how powerful that voice can be, because it lived in me. And because of it, Sonderlier almost never happened. Let me tell you the story.
My love for art, fashion, and design has been there for as long as I can remember. But it was all a daydream. I was told in a million ways that I’d better get a day job and leave silly childhood fantasies where they belong – in childhood. Because I would fail. Because it was too risky. Being an entrepreneur and designing a brand happened to other people, special people - and I certainly wasn't one of those. I bought that message. I buried the dream, and went on to get my degrees in math and engineering, and then a job as an engineering professor. It was supposed to a prestigious, dream job. In many ways, it was good work. It allowed me to learn new things everyday, work with smart people, and constantly be intellectually challenged. But despite all of that, work was exactly what it was. I tried so hard to convince myself that I should be content with what I had, but I couldn’t deny that something was missing. I felt disconnected and passionless. But the farther I went along that path, the harder it felt to give up the life that “made sense.” Everything was fine. Wasn't it?
And then something amazing happened. One of my best friends decided to quit her high-paying job in artificial intelligence to pursue a career as a film director. The relief she felt was immediate and unmistakable. It got harder for me to hide from how unhappy I was, and harder to dismiss what I wanted as unreachable. I had to be honest with myself. I was afraid. How much of my life was I willing to have defined by my fear? I cautiously dug out my dream. I felt sad that I'd ever put it away at all. I bought a sketch book and I started sketching out what my dream everyday clothes could look like. Within a few weeks, I'd used up all the pages. But I still didn't tell anyone about it. My fear still wouldn't leave me alone.
Finally, a few months in, I started to talk about it with friends and family. I even found several mentors well-versed in the fashion industry. I will never forget my first meeting with a mentor in NYC. It was the first time I showed anyone my design sketches. As I held my breath, he looked at my sketch and then looked up to me and said, "Wow, you drew this?" I nodded. "Huh! Didn't know you could draw. Very nice designs!" I wish I had words to describe to you how much that meant to me. A new little voice popped up. It wasn't new, exactly. But it had been sleeping for a long, long time. It was hopeful and confident. So I told him about what I want to achieve with Sonderlier and how it's not just about looks. At the end of our meeting, he looked at me and said, "Take your time, do all the steps, and you will make it. Don't let anyone tell you you can't do this." And I will never let that happen.
I created Sonderlier in the hopes that you won't let it happen either. When you are wrapped by something so comfortable and beautiful, I hope that your little voice of fear will be replaced by a voice of confidence and hope, too.
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For Part II of Sonderlier's story, click here.